Do lightning rods really work 1

Lightning rod: how useful is external lightning protection?

You see less and less lightning rods on the roofs of new houses. Do you no longer need a lightning protection system today? We explain for whom external lightning protection is compulsory and when it makes sense.

  1. Lightning rods are usually not compulsory
  2. What if lightning strikes a house?
  3. What does a lightning rod do?
  4. How big is the risk of a lightning strike?
  5. For whom a lightning rod makes sense

According to the Association of Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies (VDE), only every third residential building is equipped with external lightning protection, a so-called lightning rod. Many homeowners wonder whether it makes sense to install such lightning protection. The costs - they are around 3,000 euros - deter many builders from investing in a lightning rod.

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We explain to you for which buildings lightning rods are useful, what happens if lightning strikes your house and for whom external lightning protection can be useful.

Lightning rods are usually not compulsory

In normal residential buildings, the installation of an external lightning protection system is not legally mandatory. In general, a requirement for lightning rods only applies to certain types of buildings:

  • Houses that are higher than 20 meters
  • Houses that are built on a hilltop and at the same time free-standing
  • older buildings with thatched, wooden or thatched roofs
  • public buildings, such as hospitals or cinemas, in which there are many people

The fact that there is no general requirement for a lightning rod is due to the fact that, statistically speaking, there is little risk of lightning striking the house. But if it does, the consequences can be devastating.

What if lightning strikes a house?

If lightning strikes a house, it can damage the building structure and the installations in the house. Typical damage are, for example:

  • destroyed roof surfaces
  • split roof beams
  • blasted plaster surfaces on ceilings and walls
  • destroyed doors, destroyed windows
  • Roof fires and consequently water damage from the extinguishing water
  • blown out concealed lines
  • charred distribution sockets and sockets
  • destroyed meter boxes
  • Broken home computers, household appliances, heating systems and / or telephones due to surge damage

It is very rare for people in the home to be fatally injured by lightning.

What does a lightning rod do?

If the house has a well-designed lightning rod, the lightning current flows outside and the building is hardly damaged. The effect of a lightning rod is that the lightning always looks for the shortest and most conductive path to earth.

However, if the lightning rod is not installed properly, the house can be struck by lightning and burn despite the lightning rod. Therefore, lightning protection should always be installed by a specialist. A lightning protection system from the hardware store is not enough.

How big is the risk of a lightning strike?

Whether a lightning rod makes sense for you also depends a little on where you live in Germany. The number of lightning strikes is significantly higher in the south and west than, for example, in the north and east of the republic.

Lightning strikes by state

Statistically, lightning strikes the highest point of a terrain. Even so, it can happen that a small house is hit that is next to a high-rise building. But that happens much less often.

For whom a lightning rod makes sense

You have to decide for yourself whether or not you install a lightning rod. The following points could be helpful in deciding for or against external lightning protection:

  1. Regardless of official requirements, the VDE recommends a lightning protection system for buildings if they protrude significantly above their surroundings (for example on mountain tops, high-rise buildings, towers), if they serve as escape shelters, if highly flammable materials have been used in the roof area, if explosive substances are stored there or Hazardous areas exist when IT systems with important data or facilities for the energy supply need to be specially protected, and when people and cultural assets need to be protected in a special way.
  2. Your household insurance also plays a role in the considerations: Does a clause in the contract refer to lightning protection precautions? Then the lightning rod is a must, otherwise the insurance will not work.
  3. How many expensive electronic devices are there that can be destroyed by lightning strikes? When making your decision, you should weigh the costs of installing external lightning protection against the value of the equipment to be protected. For them, however, a lightning rod alone is not enough for protection. To protect them, you also need internal surge protection. More on this in this article: Surge protection: Do I need a socket with lightning protection?